The Frank Stella papers measure 12.4 linear feet and date from 1941 to 1993, with the bulk of the records spanning the period 1978 to 1989. The collection documents the professional and personal life of abstract artist, Frank Stella. Among the papers are correspondence, a small cache of records from his years as an undergraduate at Princeton University, writings by and about Stella, interview transcripts, sketchbooks, registers and inventories, financial records, printed matter, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The Frank Stella papers, 12.4 linear feet, document the artist's professional and personal life. Papers date from 1941-1993, with the bulk spanning the period 1978-1989. Among the papers are correspondence, a small cache of records from his years as an undergraduate at Princeton University, writings by and about Stella, interview transcripts, sketchbooks, registers and inventories, financial records, printed matter, and photographs.
Correspondence, 1966-1989 and undated (Series 1), consists mainly of incoming letters, many annotated with brief notes indicating Stella's reply, and carbon copies of a small number of replies. Correspondence is with individuals, dealers, institutions and organizations and concerns professionals and personal business matters including awards and prizes, exhibitions, art loans and sales, fan mail; requests for autographs, interviews, studio tours, donations, jury service, exhibitions, critiques, information, lectures, and for Stella's participation in programs or events; legal matters, and political fund raising activities.
Princeton University records, 1954-1958 (Series 2), contain course materials, papers examinations, notes, and Stella's thesis, "Art in Wester Christendom." Correspondence regards university and personal business, including Stella's Selective Service student deferment. Also included are letters from Stella's parents and friends, pencil drawings and sketches, photographs of student work by Stella, and printed matter.
Writings, 1968-1993 and undated (Series 3), consist of articles, talks and lectures by Stella, his Norton Lectures delivered at Harvard published as Working Space, and miscellaneous notes. Writings about Stella are drafts of exhibition catalogs and manuscripts of articles. Interview Transcripts, 1964-1993 and undated (Series 4), include 13 published and unpublished interviews with Frank Stella conducted for publication as magazine articles or as research for exhibition catalogs, and a transcript of an interview with Philip Leider.
Sketchbooks, 1956-1968 and undated (Series 5), 10 volumes, contain sketches in pencil, ink, and colored markers. One includes notes on new paintings, color, and shape; another contains a list of artists and notes on abstract composition. Registers and Inventories, 1959-1983 and undated (Series 6), were compiled for various purposes and record paintings, works in mixed media, drawings, series, inventories prepared by dealers, and miscellaneous notes and lists compiled or collected by Stella.
Financial Records, 1972-1986 (Series 7), document both personal and professional expenses. They consist of banking records, paid bills, payroll, petty cash slips and receipts, and records of race horse expenses.
Printed Matter, 1957-1993 and undated (Series 8), includes articles by Stella and his book Working Space. Articles about Stella include feature stories and interviews, exhibition reviews, reviews of his book, and other articles that mention him briefly and/or include a reproduction of his work. Also included are catalogs, invitations and announcements for solo and group shows, and exhibitions juried by Stella. Other printed matter consists of announcements of limited edition prints, printed matter from events in which Stella participated, and miscellaneous items.
Photographs, 1941-1989 and undated (Series 9), are of people, exhibitions, works of art, places, and miscellaneous subjects. Photographs of Stella include an image of him as a young child, Stella with his wife Dr. Harriet McGurk, with his infant son, and with others. Exhibition photographs are of the opening of "Frank Stella: Neue Werke" at Galerie Würthle, 1984, and installation views of his 1989 show at Knoedler & Co., "Frank Stella: New Work." Photographs of works of art include prints, 35 mm color slides, and color transparencies of works by Stella. Places pictured are views of the Gemini G.E.L. studio, and miscellaneous subjects are horses and a banner at the Metropolitan Museum of art mimicking a black painting (not created or authorized by Stella).
The collection is organized into nine series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1966-1989, undated (Boxes 1-4; 3.25 linear feet)
Series 2: Princeton University, 1954-1958, undated (Box 4; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1968-1993, undated (Boxes 4-7; 2.3 linear feet)
Series 4: Interview Transcripts, 1964-1993, undated (Box 7; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 5: Sketchbooks, 1956-1968, undated (Box 8; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 6: Registers and Inventories, 1959-1983, undated (Box 8; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 7: Financial Records, 1972-1986 (Boxes 8-11; 4.0 linear feet)
Series 8: Printed Matter, 1957-1993, undated (Boxes 12-13 and ov fldr 14; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 9: Photographs, 1941-1989, undated (Box 13; 0.25 linear feet)
Frank Stella (b. 1936) achieved professional recognition at a young age and soon became internationally prominent and influential. Known for his amazing productivity and energy, for more than forty years this abstract artist has made paintings, prints, and sculpture in a variety of styles that have been described as ranging from minimalist to "maximalist."
While a student at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., Stella enrolled in an art appreciation course with a studio component held at the school's Addison Gallery of American Art. He then immersed himself in a studio program and became friendly with the instructor, abstract painter Patrick Morgan. Frank Stella, Carl Andre, and other students were often invited to Morgan's home where he and his wife Maude, also an artist, showed their collection of contemporary American art and discussed art seen at New York galleries. At Princeton University Stella decided to major in history, and continued to paint on his own. Studio art courses were not yet a part of the curriculum, but he soon learned that art history instructor and abstract painter William Seitz had started a not-for-credit painting studio that met at night in one of the architectural drawing studios. In this informal group Stella met Darby Bannard, a serious painter who was to become a close friend; he also developed a friendship with fellow student Michael Fried during their years at Princeton. Following Seitz's recommendation, Stella began visiting New York galleries. With the 1956 appointment of Stephen Greene as its first artist-in-residence, Princeton began offering studio courses which Stella took full advantage of. His work was influenced by what he had seen at the galleries on his many trips to New York - de Kooning and Frankenthaler, and later Rothko and Gottlieb - and his junior year essay about Hiberno-Saxon illuminated manuscripts, "Art in Western Christendom," made reference to Jackson Pollock.
Stella headed for New York City after his 1958 graduation from Princeton, where his family expect he would study law at Columbia or New York University. Instead, he rented a storefront studio on the Lower East Side and began his "transitional" paintings, earning a living by painting houses a few days a week. Before long he moved to a loft, and by winter had begun the Black series. Once settled in New York, Stella was introduced to critic Clement Greenberg and began meeting artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. He first exhibited professionally at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in the spring of 1959 when one of his Black paintings, Club Onyx, was included in a group show. By the end of that summer the artist was represented by the Leo Castelli Gallery which soon sold a Black painting, Clinton Plaza, the first to be acquired by someone outside his immediate circle of friends. Stella's former teacher, William Seitz, recommended that Stella be included in an exhibition of emerging talent at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College; he also urged Museum of Modern Art curator Dorothy Miller to look at Stella's painting at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, which resulted in an invitation participate in her exhibition, Sixteen Americans. The Museum of Modern Art purchased The Marriage of Reason and Squalor from the exhibition. Opportunities to show in group and solo exhibitions continued at a steady pace, and in1961 Stella had his first one-man show in Europe. He is one of the very few artists honored by The Museum of Modern Art with two retrospective exhibitions (1970 and 1987).
Frank Stella's work is characterized by changing styles. Abstract expressionist paintings of his student days gave way to minimalist work that soon incorporated shaped canvases and eventually stressed color and curved motifs. By the 1980s his minimalist aesthetic had been replaced by dynamic mixed media pieces. Shaped paintings developed into wall constructions with large, projecting, multiple components and lively brush stroke patterns. By the 1990s, much of Stella's work was fully three-dimensional.
The University of California at Irvine invited Stella to be its artist in residence in 1967; Barbara Rose (Stella's wife from 1961-1969), who was in the process of writing American Art Since 1960, was asked to lecture on contemporary art. With their young daughter and infant son, they moved to California. Upon arrival they were asked to sign a loyalty oath required of all state employees; Barbara signed, but Frank refused. While she lectured and wrote, he played lots of tennis. Soon master printer Ken Tyler persuaded Stella, who had never seriously pursued printmaking, to work with lithography. His first prints were Star of Persia I and Star of Persia II (designs from the Notched V series of 1964-65 not previously executed) and the entire edition sold by the end of the year. He has continued making prints, working in series as he does with his paintings; many of his print series are based on painting series of the same name. Stella's prints often rival paintings in their scale and bold color. Since 1967 Stella has produced prints with Ken Tyler, first in Los Angeles at Gemini G.E.L., and later in Bedford, N.Y. where Tyler Graphics Ltd. was established in 1974. Their close working relationship has resulted a large number of remarkable prints employing practically every graphic technique - sometimes in startling combinations - using a wide range of materials, and prompting innovative solutions to technical challenges. By 1972, Stella was also producing prints with Petersburg Press, Ltd. of London and New York; three years later, Petersburg installed a commercial lithography press on the first floor of Stella's home in New York City.
Throughout his career, Frank Stella has been sought after as a speaker, teacher, visiting critic, and artist in residence. Most noteworthy among these activities was his appointment as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard for the academic year 1983-84. Stella, Accompanied by his wife Harriet and their two small boys, Stella spent much of the preceding year at the American Academy in Rome looking at Italian art, particularly Caravaggio, planning and researching the lectures he would deliver at Harvard. His six Norton Lectures, which presented a nontraditional evaluation the work of Caravaggio, Rubens, Carracci, Picasso, Pollock, and others, related abstract painting of the twentieth century to the art of the past. These well-received lectures were published in 1986 as book titled Working Space.
In recent years Stella was commissioned to produce several large works for public spaces including several outdoor sculptures, a large decorative relief frieze and the interior dome of the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto, and his first completed architectural project, a bandshell for the City of Miami.
1936 -- Born May 12, Malden, Mass.
1950-1954 -- Student at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.; studies painting with Patrick Morgan; meets Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton, fellow students.
1954-1958 -- Student at Princeton University; paints in William Seitz's non-credit open studio; Darby Bannard is a fellow student; begins visiting New York galleries to see contemporary art studies with Stephen Greene, 1956, artist-in-residence; meets Michael Fried, also a Princeton undergraduate; writes thesis on Hiberno-Saxon illuminated manuscripts.
1958 -- Moves to New York City, rents a storefront on the Lower East Side to use as a studio during the summer and works part-time as a house painter; in the fall moves to a loft on West Broadway; Darby Bannard introduces him to critic Clement Greenberg.
1959 -- Black series painting included in a group show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Stella's first professional exhibition included in "Sixteen Americans" exhibition, Museum of Modern Art; joins Castelli Gallery; The Marriage of Reason and Squalor purchased by Museum of Modern Art; Carl Andre introduces him to Barbara Rose, a Columbia University graduate student in art history; resumes friendships with Carl Andre and Hollis Frampton.
1960 -- Paints first shaped canvases; first solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery.
1961 -- Applies for Fulbright Grant to study in Japan; first trip to Europe; first solo exhibition at Galerie Lawrence, Paris; marriage to Barbara Rose.
1962 -- Birth of daughter Rachel.
1963 -- Artist in Residence, Dartmouth College; travels in Iran.
1964 -- Included in U.S. section, XXXII Venice Biennale.
1965 -- Travels to Brazil.
1966 -- Performs in "Open Score," a game of tennis with racquets that transmitted sound and light composed by Robert Rauschenberg; birth of son Michael.
1967 -- Appointment as Artist in Residence, University of California, Irvine but refuses to sign the required loyalty oath and does not teach; makes first prints at Gemini G.E.L.; teaches advanced summer workshop, University of Saskatchewan; designs sets and costumes for "Scramble," Merce Cunningham's performance at Connecticut College Dance Festival.
1969 -- Divorce from Barbara Rose; teaches beginning painting to undergraduates at Brandeis University, spring semester.
1970 -- Retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
1973 -- Travels to Brazil, Paris, London.
1974 -- Honorary degree, Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
1975 -- Birth of daughter Laura to Shirley De Lemos Wyse.
1976 -- Car painted with design Stella created for BMW races at Le Mans.
1977 -- Travels to India, London, and Germany; meets race drivers Ronnie Peterson and Peter Gregg.
1978 -- Marries Dr. Harriet McGurk
1979 -- Receives Claude Moore Fuss Award for "distinguished contribution to public service," Phillips Academy; creates design for Peter Gregg's race car.
1980 -- Survives auto crash with Peter Gregg en route to Le Mans.
1981 -- Awarded Honorary Fellowship, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem; travels in Egypt and Venice; awarded Medal for Painting, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
1982 -- Mayor's Award of Honor for Arts and Culture; birth of son Peter; Residency in Painting, American Academy in Rome (Nov.-Dec. and Spring 1983), where he begins researching and writing the lectures he will present at Harvard during the coming academic year.
1983-1984 -- Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, Harvard University; delivers a series of six lectures titled "Working Space" (Oct.-April)
1984 -- Honorary degree, Princeton University; birth of son Patrick.
1985 -- Honorary degree, Dartmouth College; Award of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
1986 -- Honorary degree, Brandeis University; travels to England; publication of Working Space.
1987 -- Second retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
1988 -- First architectural project, a proposal for a footbridge over the Seine River, in collaboration with engineer Peter Rice.
1990 -- The Symphony commissioned by Art In Embassies Program, U. S. State Department.
1991 -- The Leaves, a work created in collaboration with Peter Rice, Alexander, Cott, Earl Childress, and Bob Kahn for the New Groninger Museum, The Netherlands.
1992 -- Designs decorative relief frieze and interior dome, commissioned by David Mirvish, for the Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto.
The collection was a gift of Frank and Harriet Stella in 1993.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
An interview of Ben Shahn conducted 1965 October 3, by Harlan Phillips, for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts Project.
Biographical / Historical:
Ben Shahn (1898-1969) was a painter and photographer from Roosevelt, N.J.
An interview of Charles Alston (9/28/65) conducted by H. Phillips is also on this tape.
Originally recorded 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 1 digital wav file. Duration is 1 hr., 37 min.
This interview conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
This collection of papers measures 0.2 linear feet, dates from circa 1820-1932, and provides scattered documentation of the lives of painter Rembrandt Peale and his wife Harriet. There are seven letters from Peale which discuss his Patriae Pater portrait of George Washington and his subsequent attempts to gain a commission from Congress for his equestrian portrait of the first president, as well as illuminating his opinion on patronage for the arts. The collection also contains a copy of Peale's lecture on "Washington and his Portraits," a page with drawings of Roman coins by Peale, two codicils to Harriet Peale's will, printed material including a pamphlet for Peale's The Court of Death and a catalog of sale for Harriet Peale's estate, and photographs of Rembrandt and Harriet Peale.
Scope and Content Note:
This collection of papers measures 0.2 linear feet, dates from circa 1820-1932, and provides scattered documentation of the lives of painter Rembrandt Peale and his wife Harriet. The papers contain seven letters from Peale to various individuals, including Massachusetts senator Elijah Hunt Mills, that document his attempts to seek recognition and recompense from Congress for his portraits of George Washington and illuminate his opinions on patronage of the arts. Also found here is a copy of Peale's lecture on "Washington and his Portraits," and legal papers consisting of two codicils to Harriet Peale's will which list the disposition of Rembrandt Peale paintings in her possession. There is a page with drawings of Roman coins by Peale, printed material including a pamphlet for Peale's popular allegorical painting The Court of Death, and a catalog of sale for Harriet Peale's estate. Photographs picture Rembrandt and Harriet Peale respectively, circa 1850.
The collection is arranged as one series.
Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and was the second son of painter Charles Willson Peale. He was known primarily for his historical paintings and portraits, particularly those of George Washington. Peale painted his first Washington portrait in 1795 at the age of 17, in a sitting arranged by his father. From 1795-1800 he traveled in Maryland and the South painting portraits, and from 1801-1803 studied with Benjamin West in London.
Peale returned to Europe from l808 to l8l0, and spent most of his time in Paris where he was inspired to take up historical painting. From 1813-1822 he lived in Baltimore where, in 1814, he established a museum for paintings and natural history that later became known as the Peale Museum. Peale's most famous allegorical painting, Court of Death, was completed in 1820 and was one of the most popular paintings of the decade.
In 1822 Peale moved to New York City where he embarked on an attempt to paint what he hoped would become the "Standard likeness" of Washington. In the process he reviewed portraits by other artists including John Trumbull, Gilbert Stuart and his father, as well as his own 1795 picture which had never truly satisfied him. His resulting Patriae Pater, completed in 1824, depicts Washington through an oval window, and is considered by many to be second only to Gilbert Stuart's iconic Athenaeum painting of the first president. Peale subsequently attempted to capitalise on the success of what quickly became known as his "Porthole" picture, collecting tesimonials praising the portrait from people who had known the president, and lobbying Congress, in vain, for a commission to paint an equestrian portrait of Washington. Despite his failure to gain such a commission, "Patriae Pater" was purchased by Congress in 1832 and still hangs in the U.S. Capitol.
Peale subsequently produced over 70 replicas of the "porthole" picture and in the late 1850s delivered a series of lecture entitled "Washington and his Portraits" along the East coast. He was also an accomplished writer and lecturer on natural history, and was among the founders of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a president of the American Academy, and a founder of the National Academy.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are the following collections relating to Rembrandt Peale: the Albert Duveen collection of artists' letters and ephemera, 1808-1910, includes an 1855 September 8 letter from Rembrandt Peale to an unidentifed person, available on 35 mm microfilm reel D9 (frames 848-850); Printed material relating to Rembrandt Peale, 1830-1862, lent for microfilming by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1855, is available on microfilm reel P29; and the Charles Henry Hart autograph collection, 1731-1912, contains a lithograph by Peale available on 35mm microfilm reel D5 (frame 103).
In 1960, Lawrence A. Fleischman donated one letter. Six items were donated by Charles E. Feinberg in 1962. An additional 35 items were transferred from the National Collection of Fine Arts Library to the Archives in 1979.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
Portrait painters -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia Search this
The papers of self-taught artist Kate Lang consist of a biographical sketch; letters, cards, and instructions from a patron for paintings; notes and other writings; lists of sales and other financial records; newspaper articles about Lang; exhibition announcements; printed source material for paintings; and photographs and snapshots of Lang as a young girl as well as color photographs and snapshots of her artwork. The collection measures 1.1 linear feet and dates from 1921 to 1996.
Scope and Content Note:
The Kate Lang papers measure 1.1 linear feet and date from 1921 to 1996. The collection documents the artistic career and creative process of Arlington, Virginia-based self-taught painter Kate Lang. The collection contains a brief biographical account, scattered professional and personal correspondence, writings and notes with sketches by Kate Lang, financial records, clippings, exhibition announcements, and numerous photographs and snapshots of Kate Lang, her artwork, friends and family. The collection compliments the Archives' material on self-taught artists and provides some useful evidence of an alternative market for painting.
The collection is arranged as six series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1992 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 2: Letters, 1992-1996, undated (Box 1; 3 folders)
Series 3: Writings, 1992-1994, undated (Box 1; 6 folders)
Series 4: Financial Records, 1990-1996, undated (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1991-1996, undated (Box 1, OV 2; 5 folders)
Series 6: Photographs, 1921-circa 1990s (Box 1, OV 2; 0.6 linear feet)
Kate Lang, born Kathryn Louise Barbour in 1910 in Mobile, Alabama, started painting at age 80. A self-taught artist, she sold her paintings at local flea markets (Washington, D.C.'s Eastern Market on Saturdays and Georgetown Market on Sundays) until her death in 1996. Lang excelled at celebrity and pet portraits painted in the style of contemporary folk art. She held exhibitions at Connection Gallery in Washington, D.C. and George Washington University's Dimrock Gallery in 1992 and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1995.
The papers were donated in 2001 and 2009 by Richard Lang, the son of Kate Lang.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility.
The papers of modernist painter Ben Benn measure 6.3 linear feet and date from 1906 through 1977, with the bulk of the papers dating from circa 1920 - circa 1970. The collection includes correspondence between Benn and his wife Velida Benn and letters from Oscar Bluemner, Max Weber, Joseph Stella, and other artists. Also found are sketches, sketchbooks, diaries, scrapbooks, personal business records, clippings, photographs, exhibition catalogs, art journals, and auction catalogs. Some of the printed material is quite rare.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of modernist painter Ben Benn measure 6.3 linear feet and date from 1906 through 1977, with the bulk of the papers dating from circa 1920 - circa 1970. The collection includes correspondence between Benn and his wife Velida de Benn and letters from Oscar Bluemner, Max Weber, Joseph Stella, and other artists. Also found are biographical materials, sketches, sketchbooks, diaries, scrapbooks, personal business records, clippings, photographs, exhibition catalogs, art journals, and auction catalogs. Some of the printed material is quite rare.
The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence files dating from 1906 through 1993, and includes personal, professional, and family correspondence of Ben Benn and wife Velida Benn, as well as personal correspondence between the Benn's. Much of the professional correspondence relates to exhibitions and other projects and is with museums, galleries, and art associations, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Artists' Gallery, and the College Art Association. Additional correspondence contains letters from friends and colleagues including Alfred Barr, Oscar Bluemner, Rita Benton, Holger Cahill, Juliana Force, Sidney Geist, Kaj Klitgaard, Audrey McMahon, Julio Osma, Harry Salpeter, Hugh Stix, Hudson D. Walker, and Marguerite Zorach, among others. Letters exchanged between Ben Benn and Velida Benn primarily relate to Benn's activities in Woodstock, N.Y., Gloucester, Ma., and St. Augustine, Fla., places he visited during the early part of his career. Many of Benn's letters are illustrated. Velida Benn's correspondence includes letters from her brother Bernard Lopez, William M. Fisher (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Bessie Beatty, Rita Benton, Sidney Geist, and Julio Osma. Also found are brief notes from Joseph Stella, Max Weber, and Marsden Hartley.
Diaries (1943-1977) contain entries by Velida Benn and reflect her activities and personal observations; also found are numerous references to Benn's exhibitions and projects. Three scrapbooks (1915-1972) document Benn's exhibitions and include copies of correspondence, announcements, checklists, price lists, and clippings; many of the items are annotated. Artwork (1937-1974) consists of sketchbooks and various loose sketches of portraits, figures, and still lifes; also included are fashion sketches by Velida Benn.
Printed material (1905-1991, bulk 1930s-1970s) includes exhibition announcements and catalogs, newspaper and magazine clippings, printed programs, reproductions, and monographs. Of particular interest are Artists' and Writers' Chap Books (1933-1935) that include the work of Ben and Velida Benn. Photographs (1920-1969) contain images of works of art, of Ben Benn, individually and with Velida, and exhibition installation shots.
The collection is arranged into seven series based primarily on type of material. Material within each series is arranged chronologically.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1983, undated (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1906-1993, undated (Boxes 1-4; 4.0 linear ft.)
Series 3: Diaries, Notebooks, and Scrapbooks, 1915-1977, undated (Boxes 4-5; 11 folders)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, circa 1910-1979, undated (Box 5; 9 folders)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1911-1991, undated (Boxes 5-6; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 7: Photographs and Negatives, 1920-1969, undated (Box 6; 6 folders)
New York painter Ben Benn was born in Russia in 1884 as Benjamin Rosenberg and died in 1983. Benn studied drawing and painting at the National Academy of Design from 1904-1908 and had his first exhibition, "Oils by Eight American Artists," at the Artists' Gallery in 1907. In 1916, Benn participated in the "Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters" at the Anderson Galleries, along with artists Thomas Hart Benton, Oscar Bluemner, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Man Ray, Abraham Walkowitz, and others. The exhibition was important in advancing the cause of modern art in American, particularly the American avant-garde and was recreated by the Whitney in 1983.
Best known as a modern painter who assimilated in his early style the influences of Matisse, Picasso, and Kandinsky, Benn's first one-man show was held at the J. B. Neumann Gallery in 1925. Portraits, still-lifes, and landscapes formed the core of Benn's subject themes and he often shifted between abstract and figurative images. He is known for his strong joyful colors, thick brush strokes and energetic paintings.
Benn was featured in over twenty one-man exhibitions and countless group shows. Major exhibitions included Abstract Painting in America (Whitney Museum, 1935), American Painting Today (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1950), and Ben Benn, Painter (The Jewish Museum, 1965). The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. honored Benn with a one-man show on his ninetieth birthday (1974). His work is in permanent museum collections in both the U.S. and abroad including the Albany Institute of Art, the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum, the Knoxville Art Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newark Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as the Museum of Arts, Ein-Harod in Israel and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland.
Ben Benn was a recipient of several awards for his achievement in painting. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts honored Benn with the Henry Schiedt award (1952) and the Carol Beck Gold Medal (1965); Benn was also the recipient of the Knoxville Art Center Purchase Prize in 1961. In 1970 Benn was a beneficiary of the Childe Hassam Fund awarded through the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Benn's work is in permanent museum collections in both the U.S. and abroad including the Albany Institute of Art, the Smithsonian Institution's Hirshhorn Museum, the Knoxville Art Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Newark Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as the Museum of Arts, Ein-Harod in Israel and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Holland.
The Ben Benn papers were donated by Benn's nephew Peter Rosenberg to the Archives of American Art in 1988.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility.